A four-year-old from Jerusalem has contracted polio, the first case in Israel in 33 years, the Health Ministry reported Sunday.
The child’s case was caused by a mutant polio strain that can infect those who are unvaccinated. Doctors fear that the child will suffer permanent damage, including paralysis in half of her body, Channel 12 News reported.
The parents brought the child for medical testing due to weakness in the left side of her body.
The Jerusalem Municipality reported that the child is a 4-year-old girl from Mea Shearim. As Health Ministry officials believe that the case is not an isolated one and may be just the tip of the iceberg of dozens and perhaps even hundreds of asymptomatic cases, an emergency meeting with the participation of the dayanim of the Eidah Chareidis is taking place on Monday afternoon.
The Emergency and Public Health Department already contacted the Rabbanim of the Eidah HaChareidis, who have instructed all residents to vaccinate their children immediately. Cars with loudspeakers are circling in the neighborhood informing residents of the need to vaccinate. The Jerusalem District Health Office is carrying out an epidemiological investigation and is notifying anyone suspected of coming into close contact with the child. Additionally, municipality workers contacted all parents of children in the polio victim’s gan and arranged for the children to be tested immediately in order to thwart the spread of the virus.
Emergency centers have been established in Mea Shearim and residents are frightened, especially since the Health Ministry believes that there are hundreds or even thousands of additional children who may have been exposed to a mutant polio strain.
The Health Ministry said that polio was found in sewage samples in the area. However, the Ministry noted that this is a phenomenon that occasionally occurs and similar incidents in the past did not lead to any clinical cases.
There are thousands of unvaccinated children in Mea Shearim and other neighborhoods due to their parents’ anti-vaccination views.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion has established a special operations room in cooperation with the Health Ministry in order to quickly vaccinate as many unvaccinated children as possible. Additionally, Jerusalem municipality workers are contacting all parents in the city whose children are unvaccinated in an effort to convince them to immediately begin vaccinations.
“The population vaccinated against polio is protected,” Health Ministry officials said. “But this could be significant for the unvaccinated population, and the recommendation is to get vaccinated. It’s perturbing, mostly because this is a completely preventable disease.”
A total of 4,700 Israelis contracted polio between 1950 and 1954, and 760 died of the virus. There is no cure for polio but it is completely preventable with vaccinations.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)